“I’ve known Werner for almost 4 decades and with a variety of lenses and different angles. He is an enormously gifted person, singular at that, and sensitive as I like to think I am, it took me awhile and a leap into the unknown to get the fullness of him. I’m not talking about my admiration for the lives he’s illuminated the paths for and the concrete steps his educational programs have achieved to serve as guides for the thousands… It took me about 6 months…until I understood him. At that moment, coterminous with understanding him, I understood myself… It was Werner who was instrumental in my coming to the understanding of what I mean by authenticity.” Warren Bennis
Werner Erhard has created thinking and learning experiences that have affected millions of people’s lives.
The power of language.
Werner understands the primal creative nature of language. Many of us have focused for years on improving conversations. We have known that dialogue and communication are important tools for improvement. Werner takes it to a whole new realm by asserting that all transformation is linguistic. He believes that a shift in speaking and listening is the essence of transformation. If we have any desire to create an alternative future, it is only going to happen through a shift in our language. If we want a change in culture, for example, the work is to change the conversation–or, more precisely, to have a conversation that we have not had before, one that has the power to create something new in the world. This insight forces us to question the value of our stories, the positions we take, our love of the past, and our way of being in the world.
The power of context.
Another insight is in the statement, “The context is decisive.” This means that the way we function is powerfully impacted by our worldview, or the way, in his language, “the world shows up for us.” Nothing in our doing or the way we go through life will shift until we can question, and then choose once again, the basic set of beliefs–some call it mental models; we’re calling it context here–that lie behind our actions. Quoting Werner, “Contexts are constituted in language, so we do have something to say about the contexts that limit and shape our actions.”
Implied in this insight is that we have a choice over the context in which we live. Plus, as an added bargain, we can choose a context that better suits who we are now without the usual requirements of inner work, a life-threatening crisis, finding a new relationship, or going back to school (the most common transformational technologies of choice).
The way this happens, (made too simple here) is by changing our relationship with our past. We do this by realizing, through a process of reflection and rethinking, how we have not completed our past and unintentionally keep bringing it into the future. The shift happens when we pay close attention to the constraints of our listening and accept the fact that our stories are our limitation. This ultimately creates an opening for a new future to occur.
The power of possibility. Changing our relationship with our past leads to another aspect of language that Werner has carefully developed. This is an understanding of the potential in the concept and use of possibility. Possibility as used here is distinguished from other words like vision, goals, purpose, and destiny. Each of those has its own profound meaning, but all are different from the way Werner uses the word possibility. Possibility here is a declaration, a declaration of what we create in the world each time we show up. It is a condition, or value, that we want to occur in the world, such as peace, inclusion, relatedness, reconciliation. A possibility is brought into being in the act of declaring it.
Werner described this with more precision in recent personal correspondence:
I suggest that you consider making it clear that it is the future that one lives into that shapes one’s being and action in the present. And, the reason that it appears that it is the past that shapes one’s being and action in the present is that for most people the past lives in (shapes) their view of the future.
…it’s only by completing the past )being complete with the past) such that it no longer shape’s one’s being and action in the present that there is room to create a new future (one not shaped by the past – a future that wasn’t going to happen anyhow). Futures not shaped by the past (i.e, a future that wasn’t going to happen anyhow) are constructed in language.
In summary, (1) one gets complete with the past, which takes it out of the future (being complete with the past is not to forget the past); (2) in the room that is now available in the future when one’s being and action are no longer shaped by the past, one creates a future (a future that moves, touches, and inspires one); (3) that future starts to shape one’s being and actions in the present so that they are consistent with realizing that future.
Peter Block, excerpted from his book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, 2009
The ontological methodology gives one access to being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as it is lived and directly experienced on the court.
You get left being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as your natural self-expression. When you think about what it is to perform on the court it really does need to be your natural self-expression. I like to watch Nadal play tennis or Federer play tennis. I don’t think they are remembering how to play. I don’t think that they learned something and then remembered it. No, for them the game is a natural self-expression and as such they become extraordinarily powerful players.
We allow people to discover for themselves that their way of being and their actions, or if you like, their way of being when being a leader and their actions when exercising leadership effectively, are a match, a natural match, or as we would say it in the course a natural correlate of the way what they are dealing with occurs for them. So we could say that being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as my natural self-expression depended on the way what I am dealing with as a leader occurs for me. How does it show up for me, what I am dealing with?
Now the question is – how am I going to get whatever it is I am dealing with to occur for me such that my natural self expression is one of being a leader and one of exercising leadership effectively? The question is – where am I going to get my being and action now? And for the most part we get our being and action right from the contents of our brain which is what’s happened in the past. But if I am standing in the future, what my brain has to draw on is its imagination and its creativity. If I am standing in the past looking at the future, it’s difficult to see the pathways. It’s kind of like looking from the bottom of a mountain up to the top, it’s difficult to see how I might get there, but if I stand on the top of the mountain and look down the mountain I’m probably going to see more than one way to get there. Leading from standing in the future reveals a lot more possibilities for realizing that future.
My experience with really outstanding leaders is that they never come up with the future to be presented to the people that they are leading. They find a way to get that future created from the people they are leading. If you are leading me and you come to me with, “Well Werner, this is the top of the mountain. This is where we are going to get.” I have to buy in to it.
But if I participate with you in creating which mountain is going to be the top of the mountain, then it doesn’t require buy in. Getting there belongs to me equally as it belongs to you. You may have had a lot to do with shaping the conversation so I could see which mountain was going to make it. I think that being a really good leader one wants to keep in mind the critical importance that the people who have to act to realize the future that you are committed to realizing, that that future really belongs to them. They are moved touched and inspired by what that future is, both its accomplishment but also by seeing that along the way they are going to be able to fulfill their concerns. They are going to find an opportunity for self expression and finally they are going to see that they can make a contribution, a noteworthy contribution that really made a difference in realizing that future.
Over the 40 years and the impact that I’ve seen people engaged in this work have on their own lives you have a sense that there is something truly valuable here. I am sure that there is a lot more that’s beyond my reach and I’d like to leave it so that people standing on whatever it is that my colleagues and I have created that they can get to that more that is beyond our reach.
Werner Erhard is an original thinker whose ideas have transformed the effectiveness of and quality of life for millions of people and thousands of organizations around the world. For more than 40 years he has been the creator of innovative ideas and models of individual, organizational, and social transformation.
His work has been the source of new perspectives for thinkers and practitioners in fields as diverse as business, education, philosophy, medicine, psychotherapy, developing and emerging countries, conflict resolution and community building. Erhard has created new ways of seeing things in areas where progress has stalled or where breakthroughs would make a significant difference. A majority of the Fortune 100 companies, and many foundations and governmental entities, have used his ideas and models. Fortune magazine’s 40th anniversary issue (5/15/95), in examining the major contributions to management thinking, recognized Werner Erhard’s ideas about methods for empowering people as one of the major innovations in management thinking of the last few decades.
Werner H. Erhard is an internationally renowned figure of our time. He is the originator of the unique model of transformational learning that has helped shaped human consciousness in the last quarter of the 20th century. One of the great thinkers of the modern era, he has impacted, for decades, the areas of individual and organizational effectiveness throughout the world.
Time Magazine, March 7, 2011, said of Erhard: “The American obsession with Transformation isn’t new. It’s about as old as the nation. But it was Werner Erhard who created the first modern transformation when he founded est seminars in 1971. It’s a tribute to the power of his central concept that more than 20 years after he sold his ideas to a group of employees Landmark is still the natural first stop in any transformation tour.” [Excerpted from “Change We Can (Almost) Believe In” by Nathan Thornburgh.]
Werner Erhard’s work has become an important resource for academic institutions and a catalyst for creative thinking and teaching in both the academic and corporate environments throughout the world. His work has been noted as a key element in current management thinking and the science of productivity, performance and leadership. As a reflection of his influence throughout the world, the friends of Werner Erhard website has been translated into Japanese, Spanish and Chinese.
Werner Erhard es el creador de modelos transformacionales y aplicaciones para la transformación individual, social y de la organización. Sus innovadoras ideas han estimulado conversaciones académicas en muchas universidades, más recientemente en las áreas de integridad, liderazgo y desempeño. Werner Erhard ha disertado en Harvard University, Yale University, Escuela de Negocios Simon de la Universidad de Rochester y Erasmus University. Leer más…
PARADIGM THINKING, properly applied, leads to tangible results.
JMW Consultants, a New York based management consulting consulting firm, helps companies boost productivity through paradigm shifts with an approach called “Productivity Breakthrough Technology. They were called in by a major computer manufacturer to help deal with a crisis.
The manufacturer was trying to get an important product out in order to take advantage of a rapidly closing marketing window. If the team of software developers responsible for the project continued the development process at their current rate – a rate that was in line with industry standards – the product would not be ready on time. If the company hired more programmers to speed up the process, they would exceed their budget. Clearly, a breakthrough was needed.
After working with JMW, the software team began to double their previous productivity. The breakthrough enabled the company to get the product out in time – and save more than $100 million over the next three years.
JMW did not teach the team new techniques for developing software. Instead they helped them shift their paradigm. In their old paradigm, the rule was “X (the predictable) amount of work in X amount of time.” The new paradigm was stated as a possibility – “Y (the required) amount of work in X amount of time.”
“The shift was to create a future – the one they needed – as a possibility, not as a prediction,” says Werner Erhard, who founded a national affiliation of management consultants with which JMW is associated. “At that point, no one knew how to do it, but they could still create the possibility.
Because there was now a new paradigm in which to see the work, the team began seeing the job of developing software differently. They then were able to generate a commitment to that possibility.”
Erhard points out that when a breakthrough is needed, what is often called for is the development of a new paradigm.
“Changing the paradigm does not negate the need for realistic, hard-headed thinking, ” he says. “In ‘business as usual’ we get clear about the situation to determine what we can do and what we can’t.
But to produce a breakthrough, you have to stand the usual approach on its head.”
The process begins with inventing a new possibility, without regard to whether you know what to do to realize it. You then look back at the situation from the standpoint of that new possibility.
“That is what gives you the new perspective and what allows you to see the situation in a way you haven’t seen it before,” says Erhard. “That is the beginnings of generating a new paradigm.” At some point in the process, he says, it will be evident that you have come up with the best paradigm for a breakthrough in that situation.
“Productivity breakthroughs are a product of seeing something in a new way, which enables you to see new opportunities and new openings for action that you couldn’t see before,” he adds. “Breakthroughs come as a result of shifting your commitment from the predictable future to a possible future.”
Reprinted from the Fall 1989 issue of Benchmark Magazine, a publication of Xerox Corporation
We can choose to be audacious enough to take responsibility for the entire human family. We can choose to make our love for the world what our lives are really about. Each of us has the opportunity, the privilege, to make a difference in creating a world that works for all of us. It will require courage, audacity and heart. It is much more radical than a revolution – it is the beginning of a transformation in the quality of life on our planet. What we create together is a relationship in which our work can show up as making a difference in people’s lives. I welcome the unprecedented opportunity for us to work globally on that which concerns us all as human beings.
If not you, who?
If not now, when?
If not here, where?”
Werner Erhard, 1977
“The training is a set of interpersonal interactions that lead to emotional and intellectual experiences that provide a circumstance and an intrument for self awareness, self observation and reflection on the circumstances of the subject trainee, both in his individual life and as a social being.” – Humberto Maturana Read more